Problems (Framing and Resolving)

posted Jun 16, 2018, 9:47 AM by jeffery jim

Steps in resolving ethical dilemmas: moral clarity, conceptual clarity, informed about the facts, informed about the options, well-reasoned.

Determining the facts; (1) moral disagreements turn out to be disagreements over the relevant facts, (2) Factual issues are sometimes very difficult to resolve, (3) Once the factual issues are clearly isolated, disagreement can reemerge on another and often more clearly defined level.  It is important to distinguish known and unknown facts and weighing the importance of facts.

The clarifying concepts: That is, we need to get as clear as we can about the meanings of key terms. For example, ‘‘public health, safety, and welfare,’’ ‘‘conflict of interest,’’ ‘‘bribery,’’ ‘‘extortion,’’ ‘‘confidentiality,’’ ‘‘trade secret,’’ and ‘‘loyalty’’ are key terms for ethics in engineering. It would be nice to have precise definitions of all these terms; but like most terms in ethics, their meanings are somewhat open-ended. These are issues about the general definitions, or meanings, of concepts. In regard to risk, an obvious conceptual issue of meaning has to do with the proper definition of ‘‘safe.’’

Application issues: engaging in ethical reflection, it is important to get as clear as we can about both the relevant facts and the basic meanings of key concepts. Attempts to specify the meanings of terms ahead of time can never anticipate all of the cases to which they do and do not apply. No matter how precisely we attempt to define a concept, it will always remain insufficiently specified so that some of its applications to particular circumstances will remain problematic.

Common ground: An ethics case study describes a set of circumstances that calls for ethical reflection. It is helpful to begin an analysis with two questions: What are the relevant facts? And what are the relevant kinds of ethical considerations? These two questions are interconnected; they cannot be answered independently of one another.

Which facts? Those that have some bearing on what is ethically at stake. That is, we need to have our eye on what is ethically important in order to know which of the many facts available to us we should be considering. Have to decide what sorts of ethical considerations are relevant. Here, we need to draw on our ethical principles, rules, and concepts. However, again, the key term relevant comes into play. Which ethical principles, rules, and concepts are relevant? This depends on the facts of the case.

We can call the stock of common moral beliefs common morality. The term is used by analogy with the term common sense. General moral beliefs: are common features of human life that suggest the sorts of general moral beliefs we share. First, we are vulnerable (We are susceptible to pain, suffering, unhappiness, disability, and, ultimately, death). Second, we value autonomy, (our capacity to think for ourselves and make our own decisions). Third, we are interdependent (depend on others to assist us in getting what we want through cooperative endeavors and the division of labor. Our well-being also depends on others refraining from harming us). Fourth, we have shared expectations and goals. Finally, we have common moral traits (Fair-mindedness, self-respect, respect for others, compassion, and benevolence toward others are common traits).

Despite individual differences in their strength, scope, and constancy, these traits can be found to some degree in virtually all human beings. Without suggesting that this list is complete, it does seem to provide a reasonable basis for understanding why common morality would include general moral rules or principles about how we should treat each other.

List of basic duties or obligations, which he called ‘‘prima facie’’ or ‘‘conditional’’ duties. In using these terms, Ross intended to convey the idea that although these duties are generally obligatory, they can be overridden in special circumstances; R1. Duties resting on our previous acts… (a) Duties of fidelity (to keep promises and not to tell lies), (b) Duties of reparation for wrong done, R2. Duties of gratitude (e.g., to parents and benefactors), R3. Duties of justice (e.g., to support happiness in proportion to merit), R4. Duties of beneficence (to improve the condition of others), R5. Duties of self-improvement, R6. Duties not to injure others

Engineers, like others, probably share these moral beliefs, and this is reflected in many engineering codes of ethics. Most codes enjoin engineers to be faithful agents for their employers, and this injunction can be seen to follow from the duties of fidelity (R1) and gratitude (R2). Most codes require engineers to act in ways that protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public, and this obligation follows from the duties of justice (R3) and beneficence (R4), and especially from the duty not to injure others (R6). Finally, most codes encourage engineers to improve their professional skills, a duty reflected in R5.

Importance of Codes: Serving and protecting the public, guidance, inspiration, shared standards, support for responsible professionals, education and mutual understanding, deterrence and discipline and contributing to the profession’s image.

The codes shall: 1. Define accepted standards of behaviour for the group. 2. Promote high standards of practice. 3. Provide benchmarks by which members can measure and develop their personal standards. 4. Define the ethical aspirations and identity of the group both internally and in relation to the public and communities around them. 5. Exhibit a level of maturity to the outside world.

General Principles: This is the idea of universalizability: Whatever is right (or wrong) in one situation is right (or wrong) in any relevantly similar situation. Two general ways of thinking about moral issues that make use of the idea of universalizability and that attempt to provide underlying support for common morality while at the same time offering guidelines for resolving conflicts within it. This same insight can lead us to ask questions about fairness and equal treatment, such as ‘‘What if everyone did that?’’ and ‘‘Why should you make an exception of yourself?’’ Reversibility is a special application of the idea of universalizability: In thinking about treating others as I would have them treat me, I need to ask what I would think if the roles were reversed.

The first appeals to the utilitarian ideal of maximizing good consequences and minimizing bad consequences. The second appeal to the ideal of respect for persons. According to utilitarianism, the morality of an action is determined solely through an assessment of its consequences. Utilitarianism has several limitations. First, it is difficult to weigh matters of life and death by weighing happiness against suffering. Second, utilitarianism is unable to distinguish between morally justified and morally unjustified emotions. Finally, utilitarians may not give special weight to the fact that certain consequences may affect them personally.

Utilitarian Thinking: approach in addressing moral problems requires us to focus on the idea of bringing about ‘‘the greatest good for the greatest number.’’ There are 3 approaches in utilitarian, where; (1) Cost-benefit approach (course of action that produces the greatest benefit relative to cost is the one that should be chosen), (2) the act utilitarian approach (Utilitarian approaches to problems do not necessarily require that values always be rendered in strictly quantitative terms. However, they do require trying to determine what will, in some sense, maximize good consequences) and (3) the rule utilitarian approach (to propose rules that are justified by their utility. When such rules are reasonably well understood and generally accepted, there are advantages for individuals using rules as a guide to action rather than attempting directly to calculate the likely consequences of the various alternative courses of actions in each situation.

Respect for persons: Those actions or rules are right that regard each person as worthy of respect as a moral agent. This equal regard for moral agents can be understood as a basic requirement of justice. A moral agent must be distinguished from inanimate objects, such as knives or airplanes, which can only fulfill goals or purposes that are imposed externally. (1) Golden Rule Approach (as requiring not only that I place myself in the position of the recipient but also that I adopt the recipient’s values and individual circumstances. In other situations, placing myself in the position of the other people and assuming their values creates a new set of problems. The Golden Rule does not by itself provide all the criteria that must be met to satisfy the standard of respect for persons. But its requirements of universalizability and reversibility are vital steps in satisfying that standard.), (2) Self-defeating approach (treating myself as an exception to the rule is to pursue my own good at the expense of others. Thus, it fails to treat them with appropriate respect. Sometimes the purpose I have in performing the action is undermined if everyone else does what I do, even if I can perform the action itself. The question is, What if everyone did this? This is a hypothetical question—not a prediction that others actually will act this way as a result of what someone else does.) (3) The rights approach (we accord others the rights necessary to exercise their agency and to pursuing their well-being. A right may be understood as an entitlement to act or to have another individual act in a certain way. Minimally, rights serve as a protective barrier, shielding individuals from unjustified infringements of their moral agency by others.)

The right approach hiearachy: 1. Identify the basic obligations, values, and interests at stake, noting any conflicts. 2. Analyze the action or rule to determine what options are available and what rights are at stake. 3. Determine the audience of the action or rule (those whose rights would be affected). 4. Evaluate the seriousness of the rights infringements that would occur with each option, taking into account both the tier level of rights and the number of violations or infringements involved. 5. Make a choice that seems likely to produce the least serious rights infringements.


Ethics and Design: In many respects, the ethical problems of engineers are like the ethical problems facing moral agents in general: They call for decisions about what we should do, not simply reflection on what we or others have already done or failed to do. For interesting or substantive engineering design problems, there is rarely, if ever, a uniquely correct solution or response, or indeed, any predetermined number of correct responses.

Although definitions of concepts are open-ended, this does not mean that every application of a concept is problematic. In fact, it is usually quite easy to find clearcut, unproblematic instances. We can refer to these as paradigm cases. Drawing line. uncontroversially wrong we shall call negative paradigm cases, and cases that are uncontroversially acceptable are positive paradigm cases.

Solutions: Conflicting Values: Creative middle way solution. Convergence, divergence and creative middle way